Meet our team on Whitebait Connection coordinators around the country!
Kia ora koutou! I am the national coordinator for the Whitebait Connection (WBC) programme and Co-Director/Poutokomanawa of its founding trust the Mountains to Sea Conservation Trust. I've been involved in environmental education since 2003 and my favourite part of the job is being out in the environment - natures classroom! I'm also an experienced coordinator of WBC's sister programme, Experiencing Marine Reserves (EMR), and founder of the Whangarei Drains To Harbour stormwater awareness campaign and Mangrove Discovery Programme. I am a graduate of Environmental Management, Conservation, Business Administration and Computing and was lucky enough to study in Northland where I lived and worked with my husband Blair and kids Zayne and Oceana, until 2014 when we moved to Warkworth, Auckland by the Mahurangi River for four years. We moved back to Whangarei in 2018 and are now working at a regional level in both Northland and Auckland as well as supporting the national delivery and growth.
Kim is an experienced coordinator and project manager of all the Trust's programmes and has 16 years of experience in this field now working at a regional level in both Northland and Auckland as well as supporting national delivery and growth of the programmes throughout Aotearoa. She works for collaborative integrated catchment management within a holistic 'Mountains to Sea' view and has driven the development of the Trust's National Īnanga Spawning Programme. Kim is the Project Manager for the Northland Īnanga Spawning Habitat Restoration project and will use her 8 years of experience driving this work in Northland and Auckland to support the operational team to scale up this important mahi and increase the capacity and capability of many stakeholders to engage and lead this work into the future.
Phone: (09) 434 0289 or 027 243 4818
I joined the Whitebait Connection in 2017 and love engaging people of all ages in freshwater conservation! I have a Bachelor's degree in Landscape Ecology and a Postgraduate Diploma in Environmental Science and have always had a fascination for freshwater, our rivers and streams and educating others about it. Before joining the Mountains To Sea team, I worked in the nursery industry which has helped me learn more about native plants and environmental restoration on the ground. I love the diversity of our projects, our team and the schools and communities we work with and enjoy the hands-on approach our programmes are centered around.
Kia ora my name is Nina and I am a graduate of a Bachelor of Applied Science maj. Biodiversity Management which I completed through NorthTec Whangarei/Auckland Unitec. During my time at NorthTec I volunteered for Whitebait Connection (WBC) and then subsequently became a Far North based WBC Programme Coordinator in 2017 and Deputy National Coordinator in 2018. I am also a qualified Planner providing resource management services to the Northland Region. Whilst I largely consider myself a generalist in the environmental field, I am extremely passionate about freshwater and marine education particularly where it relates to my home, being the Far Far North of New Zealand. My favourite part of being a WBC coordinator is being able to use nature's classroom to effectively communicate important environmental messages to our tamariki in a fun way!
Northland Programme Coordinator
Kia ora, I'm excited to be part of the team since 2018. I am a registered teacher, as well as holding a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Zoology. I have a passion for sharing environmental knowledge outside of the classroom, where children can be engaged with the content in hands on learning. I have experience teaching children of all ages and have specialized in freshwater ecology and monitoring, wildlife protection and waste management in previous environmental educator roles.
Phone: 022 012 3027
He Kākano Community Nursery Manager (Northland)
Kia ora , ko Jordie MacDonald toku ingoa. I joined the WBC team in 2017. I grew up in the Marlborough Sounds and studied a Bachelor of Biological Sciences majoring in Marine Biology at Victoria university of Wellington. Since then I have been involved in a few exciting projects such as the Humpback whale survey in the Cook Straight, volunteering for EMR and conservation work with the Auckland Council as a park ranger.
Phone: 027 354 8745
Northland Regional Coordinator
Kia ora, my name is Nic and I joined WBC as a coordinator for Whangarei in May of this year. I gained a Master of Science degree in Marine Biology from Otago University in the late 90s and later trained as an Osteopath. My passions have always been in understanding the natural sciences and exploring my local forests, rivers, and coastlines.
After almost a decade in corporate sales I decided that it was time to pursue my passions and to give back to the places I love. So, I am super excited to join the WBC team, get hands on, and be a part of educating the next generation of scientists and conservationists.
Phone: 027 6419388
Kia ora, my name is Patricia and I joined the WBC team in May 2021. I whakapapa to Ngāpuhi and grew up on a farm near my hometown of Kaikohe. Through my upbringing I have always been interested in all things related to freshwater. I have a Bachelor's degree in Environmental Science and Earth Science, and a Masters degree in Environmental Science focussed on freshwater ecology. I love being part of the WBC team as it combines my passions for freshwater ecology, education and hand on conservation.
Phone: 027 325 2054
Northland Programme Coordinator
Kia ora, my name is Ray and I joined WBC in 2021 as a coordinator in Northland. I am also an Experiencing Marine Reserves (EMR) coordinator. I have a Grad Dip in Primary Teaching and a Bachelor of Arts in Media Studies. I am a Northlander at heart and have a keen interest in freshwater and marine conservation and constantly amazed about how much we can learn from nature. Utilising my background in teaching I look forward to delivering the WBC programme to schools in the North and helping communities to be more connected to their natural environment.
Auckland Regional Manager
Kia ora! My name is Laura and I am a conservation biologist and educator who takes a mountains to the sea approach to my work. I came to New Zealand in 2003 to volunteer in a dolphin study in the Hauraki Gulf and wound up staying! I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Biology and recently completed a Master of Science in Conservation Biology with my thesis focussing on mother and calf humpback whales. I enjoy communicating science in a simple manner, so all ages can grow an appreciation for the environment. I have worked educating children and the general public in Alaska, Hawaii, California, New Zealand and Australia. I worked in south Auckland for many years delivering the Wai Care programme, Community Shellfish Monitoring programme, and the WiseWise Schools Programme. Since 2013 I have had the pleasure of being appointed a Visiting Scholar at Griffith University’s Griffith Centre for Coastal Management. I host an ongoing study that is documenting the occurrence of newborn humpback whale calves in the Gold Coast Bay, Queensland. As a conservation advocate, I feel it is important for people of all ages to take positive steps to protect our planet.
Kia ora! My name is Sophie. I studied and worked in terrestrial ecology in the UK before moving to New Zealand in 2008. When I moved to New Zealand, I found my passion for freshwater ecology and have worked for local government and NGOs helping to establish water quality monitoring programmes and study stream life ever since. I have previously been a WBC Programme and Auckland Regional Coordinator, and am now an Ambassador for Whitebait Connection, promoting the programme where I can.
North Auckland Programme Coordinator
Kia ora my name is Sophie, I started volunteering and assisting for WBC in April 2017 and have just begun as a lead coordinator based in Auckland. I studied biological science at the University of Auckland, which inspired me to pursue a career in ecological conservation. I am involved in many conservation projects around Auckland and am extremely passionate about protecting the Hauraki Gulf’s marine life. I am a qualified snorkel instructor and rescue diver and love helping kids gain confidence in the water.
Phone: 021 064 5125
North Auckland Programme Coordinator
My name is Sarah and I am a member of the Auckland team with WBC. I hold a BSc hons in Environmental science and after an extended OE recently returned to uni to complete a PgDipSci in Marine Science with the University of Auckland. I have travelled extensively and have been lucky enough to work as a SCUBA instructor, marine biology guide and TEFL educator worldwide. I am proud to be part of WBC and really like the way hands on education can mobilise people to value their environment.
Auckland Programme Coordinator
Kia ora koutou, I am a Coordinator with the Auckland Whitebait Connection team. I’ve recently joined Whitebait Connection in 2019. I hold a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Science from the University of Auckland. I’ve been lucky enough to have been involved in some inspiring conservation projects in my career so far, I love hands on conservation and involving people in nature, sharing all the exciting and unique things we have in New Zealand.
Phone: 021 151 1861
Auckland Programme Coordinator
Phone: 021 118 9223
Auckland SHMAK Trainer
Kia ora! I am one of the Auckland SHMAK trainers and joined the Whitebait Connection team in November 2020 after graduating from the Auckland University of Technology with an Honours degree in Applied Conservation.
My education, as well as volunteer experience with several conservation focused organisations has inspired me to continue in the environmental field, allowing me to both advance my own knowledge and gain experience in a very significant and relevant area. I love hands- on & outdoor work and particularly enjoy the educational side of things, too. It is great to be able to work with so many eager young people, providing them with the knowledge they need to value and protect their environment.
Phone: 021 025 29514
Auckland Programme Coordinator
Kia ora! I am a Programme Coordinator with the Auckland Whitebait Connection team, recently joining in 2021. I hold a Master of Science (Environmental Science – Freshwater Ecology) from the University of Auckland where I studied macroinvertebrate communities in riverine wetlands. I am extremely passionate about the importance of children connecting with nature, which led me to establish a nature-based programme in Playcentre and also work as a Nature Educator with school aged children. I am excited to now be part of the WBC team and strongly believe that hands-on experience in nature is the key to inspiring and engaging our tamariki to become Kaitiaki of the beautiful environment they live in.
Phone: 021 062 0674
Auckland Assistant Programme Coordinator
Brendan Doogan comes to Whitebait Connection from a background in teaching and coaching Taekwon-Do. He spent eight years teaching Year 7 & 8 students and as a full-time Taekwon-Do instructor coached 9,000 students in schools, clubs and seminars from 2016-2020. Between 2014 and 2017 he was assistant coach to Nga Kaponga the New Zealand Taekwon-Do team, passing on his own experiences as a world champion in board breaking.
He has a keen interest in the natural world and is always looking for new iNaturalist observations to add. Having travelled widely overseas Brendan is happy to be working to promote and protect the taonga we have here in Aotearoa.
Phone: 021 210 9346
Auckland Programme Coordinator
Kia ora! I am a new programme coordinator working within the Auckland team having just joined in March 2022. I hold a BSc (Hons) Degree in Zoology from back home in Ireland, and I submitted my PhD in Ecology at the University of Auckland last year. I have called Aotearoa home for almost 6 years now and I love it here. My interests in ecology and conservation have always been very broad; I have previously worked for primate conservation projects in Southern Africa and, more recently, I focused on bird behaviour for my doctoral research. I am passionate about conservation science outreach and communication, and I adore working with kids. They are this planet’s future, and I believe helping to nurture their interest in the environment early on is crucial. I feel very privileged to now be involved in freshwater education and conservation as this is such a highly relevant area.
Murray has been a WBC coordinator since 2005 and ran the delivery of these programmes via his company, Te Mahi a Taiao Limited. He also managed the delivery of WBC's sister programme EMR in Gisborne, and has had many other partnerships and workstreams over the years.
Murray also set up and established a charitable trust called "He Awa Ora, He Tai Ora, Healthy Rivers, Living Sea Education Trust". He is Chairperson for the trust and formed this incorporated entity to deliver both the WBC and EMR programmes to facilitate and provide wider community involvement with broader funding opportunities and scope for the programmes.
Phone: 021 177 1926
Gisborne Regional Manager
Amy has completed a Bachelor of Commerce and Administration with a double major in marketing and management. She has a background in business but holds a strong passion for working alongside children. Amy is Secretary and Treasurer of the charitable trust "He Awa Ora, He Tai Ora, Healthy Rivers, Living Sea Education Trust" which the WBC programme is run through in Gisborne. Amy began working part-time in 2012 and is now the full-time manager and tutor of the WBC and EMR programmes.
This work enables Amy to grow her passion and commitment for educating children and the wider community about environmental conservation and engaging individuals towards sustainable development.
Wellington Programme Director/Coordinator
Kia ora. I have been involved with the Mountains to Sea Conservation Trust's work since 8 years. Ex-dive instructor (Kaikoura and Samoa), gained my marine and coastal science degree from Australia, then worked in environmental policy for several years in NZ and the US. I became involved in EMR whilst retraining as a teacher and coordinated in Wellington for a couple of years before going full time in the classroom. Missed it too much, so came back onboard in 2014 and took on delivery of the Whitebait Connection as well. I now manage the team in Wellington and, with the team, have created a wide range of services and connections within our community.
Phone: 021 707 881
Wellington Regional Programme Coordinator
Kia ora my name is Liz, 2015 was my first year as a WBC coordinator based in Wellington. I am completing my Masters in Marine Conservation and a BSC in Zoology. My other passion is music.
Sarah Kachwella (Nee Neighbours)
Wellington Programme Coordinator
I am very excited to be working as a Whitebait Connection Coordinator with the Mountains to Sea Wellington team. I have had a passion for the outdoors from a young age and decided to become a Marine Biologist when I was 8 years old. I have a Masters in Marine Conservation and love being able to pass on my knowledge and enthusiasm to students, teachers, parents and the general public. In my spare time I enjoy being outdoors, especially being involved in marine and freshwater related activities.
Phone: 027 258 2925
Wellington Programme Coordinator
Jorge is an ocean enthusiast that loves being in the water. He has been interested in the marine environment since a young age. Borned in Madrid, Spain, he would have to drive at least 3 hours to get to the nearest beach. After completing his BSc in Biotechnology, he decided to leave Europe and explore more in depth the oceans of the world. He volunteered for 5 months in a turtle conservation, rehabilitation and education centre in Indonesia. During the volunteering, he discovered his passion of marine conservation education, teaching students and tourist the effects of human activity in our marine environments and how to mitigate these effects. After completing the volunteer, Jorge decided to study a MSc in Marine Conservation at Victoria University of Wellington. During his master degree, he would volunteer with the Wellington team taking the school kids snorkelling around the Taputeranga marine reserve. This is how he got involved with the team, the EMR program and the trust. Then in 2018 he trained to become a Whitebait Connection programme coordinator for Wellington.
Veronica Mohan (aka Roni)
Howdy! My name is Veronica, but I sometimes go by Roni, and I am a Whitebait Connection Coordinator in Wellington. I moved from Texas to Wellington in 2018 to study marine conservation. During my studies, I volunteered for Mountains to Sea Wellington as a snorkel guide but quickly found myself volunteering for the freshwater field trips, too. I began working for Mountains to Sea Wellington in the spring of 2019. Joining the team allows me to explore my passion for teaching and connecting children to nature. I have also had the opportunity to assist in developing freshwater monitoring training for citizen scientists. My goals are to become an effective science communicator to all age groups.
Phone: 027 211 4864
Kia ora koutou! Ko Joe toku ingoa. Hailing from the rain-soaked hills of South Wales, I first fell in love with the freshwater environment as a young boy. Surprisingly not in Wales’ chilly waters, but in the United States, when I nearly drowned hunting for Koura in the streams of Northern Virginia. A particularly large crawdaddy grabbed me by the ankle and with that first nip, and whilst choking on a lungful of brackish water, a lifelong love affair began. Now an eel wrestling professional with the Mountains to Sea Wellington team, I live for forging those same connections that I feel between our tamariki and their local waterways. Providing these opportunities for experiential education to students and community members who may have never had the chance otherwise means everything. Most of all seeing the way the kids light up and the fortitude they display in wanting to make a difference to the world around them never ceases to warm the cockels of my slightly damp Welsh heart.
Kia ora, I am a former Whitebait Connection Coordinator, and now an Ambassador based in Tasman Bay. I started working as an EMR coordinator in 2016 and found that we would start environmental projects in the ocean and then end up back in the rivers. After a few discussions with Kim, Whitebait Connection was relaunched in our region working alongside Mel from Wai Maori Stream Care, during 2018.
I have coordinated and delivered EOTC environmental education since 1996, starting with Conservation Corps at Whenua Iti Outdoor Pursuit Centre in Lower Moutere then coordinating and delivering environmental science programs for Northtec.
I have a Bachelor of Primary Teaching degree and I’m passionate about taking students outside the classroom so they can experience ‘hands on,’ freshwater and marine environments. My reward is seeing the students’ aroha for the conservation, restoration and protection of our waterways form that are special to them in their own backyard.
Nelson/Tasman WBC Ambassador
Kia ora Koutou! I am the Tasman Bay’s coordinator for the Whitebait connection program, secretary and co-manager of the Tasman Bay Guardians Trust. I have a Bachelor of Health Science majoring in environmental monitoring and have co-directed Abel Taman Eco Tours for the last 5 years. Our business motto is ‘Open Your Eyes’, and that is equally relevant to the Whitebait connection programme, where we aim to get the community connected to their freshwater ecosystems and passionate about habitat protection. Being born in Motueka I have herenga to Motueka river and its tributaries. I hope to be and foster other to be kaitiaki of this beautiful area.
Nelson/Tasman/Te Tau Ihu Co-ordinator
Mel has 13 years experience with the delivery of WBC freshwater education in Nelson, Tasman & Marlborough with Schools, community groups and the general public. In 2006 Mel took over the Co-ordinator role with continued delivery under the banner ”Wai Māori Streamcare” a collaboration with local Iwi. Tangata Whenua acknowledged the need to ensure the science was received with cultural values and principles of kaitiakitanga entwined.
Mel brings her passion for all things water and a strong sense of reponsibility in working towards the safe-guarding of our natural freshwater resources for future generations.
Mel has qualifiations in conservation, having completed the DoC Trainee Ranger Programme, Environmental Science and Iwi Environmental Management (TWOA). Mel has also gained solid qualifications in communications and te reo Māori Level 3.
Mel acknowledges the support of brilliant mentors and WBC training/wananga over the years to develop her capability to grow and sustain the kaupapa in Te Tau Ihu. More recently Mel has taken on co-ordination and delivery of The Nelson :”Drains to Harbour” programme under Tasman Bay Guardians.
Phone: 021 146 8654
During a litter audit workshop recently, I had a flashback to my Form 1 science display project which I was now replicating. I realised I had come full circle and was creating pie charts of marine debris once again!
I grew up in Kawakawa Bay and in Cornwall, UK. I gained a BSc in Biology at Cardiff University, and trained as a primary school teacher in Dunedin. I’m now building a dream career in aquatic conservation education and science communication alongside teaching part-time. I am a coordinator for both WBC and EMR.
Growing up in Hawaii with a fisherman as a father and the sea on my doorstep primed me for a lifetime fascination and curiosity with the sea. Working on a Marine research vessel in my highschool years was a highlight. After completing a Bachelor of Zoology and Marine Biology at Humboldt State University I worked on the high seas as a scientific observer in Alaska, NZ, Mauritius, and Antarctica. It was an eye opening adventure filled with unique learning opportunities. And still the adventure continues as I now get to share my enthusiasm and love of the ocean and rivers with the next generation through Tasman Bay Guardians!
Canterbury WBC Ambassador
Shelley was trained as a WBC coordinator in 2016 but has extensive experience in the aquatic fields of science and is a trusted advisor for the local and regional authorities on these matters. Shelley is a Director and the Principal Scientist at EOS Ecology; the umbrella organisation for WBC Canterbury. She loves to spend lots of time outside either wading in streams looking under rocks, tramping in our great outdoors, or photographing our amazing wildlife and landscapes.
Shelley McMurtrie is an Aquatic Ecology Scientist with almost two decades of research and industry experience studying aquatic (freshwater and estuary) ecosystems, including fish and invertebrate communities. In addition to managing the EOS science team, her expertise has led to her involvement as the ecology lead in key waterway restoration programmes, leadership of long-term monitoring programmes and ecological investigations, and authorship and editing of key guiding documents for the restoration and management of urban waterways.
Committed not only to taking science into the world’s wild places but also to communicating science to the wider public, Shelley successfully coordinated the largest multidisiplinary expedition to our remote Campbell Island (www.campbellisland.org.nz) and the development of the first ever taxonomic identification keys for the island’s aquatic invertebrates (http://ciinvertkey.com/). More recently she has led the Whaka Inaka programme, she has also developed monitoring programmes for community groups and led the creation of a freshwater invertebrate identification chart suitable for use by community and schools.
Shelley’s enthusiasm combined with in-depth knowledge of freshwater ecosystems gets kids completely engaged with the wonderful world of our fresh waters.
Canterbury WBC Coordinator
Nick Hempston became a WBC coordinator in 2017 and brings over 10 years of practical field experience and a heap of knowledge about bugs. Nick gets outdoors at any chance he has - mountain biking, kayaking or skiing.
For the past ten years, Nick has lead EOS Ecology’s field programmes and is extremely knowledgeable in taxonomic identification of invertebrate fauna. Nick’s previous experience teaching biology and shore ecology with school groups makes him well equipped to deliver WBC programmes. With Nick’s passion for invertebrate taxonomy and extensive experience identifying animals from freshwater, estuary and terrestrial environments, he is the perfect addition to the team and can answer almost any question thrown his way – it will be a challenge for the kids to try and stump him!